Challenges to Peace Building and Development in the Ethiopian Community
Research study conducted
YD Research Team Profile
Name: Alpha Abebe
Educational background: Bachelor of Arts- Major Political Science, Major Criminology
- Final Year at the University of Toronto
Interests: Alpha has a passion for youth and a passion for education. She advocates for open
opportunities for youth of all backgrounds and economic statuses, and hopes to pursue a career that
will enable her to create such opportunities when none are in place. Learning excites her and she
aims to pass this excitement on to other youth in her community.
Perspectives: Alpha became involved in this project because of her involvement with the Young
Diplomats. More importantly however, she feels strongly about the underdeveloped research
surrounding new immigrant populations, such as the Ethiopian community, especially with regards to
the implications of their migrant and settlement experience. She discovered this literature gap in a
research endeavor that she undertook through her criminology program where she found little to
nothing written about the Ethiopian Diaspora. Considering an estimated population of 30,000+ in
Toronto alone, she believes that knowledge of the needs and challenges faced by the Ethiopian
community is integral not only to its community members, but also to the city as a whole. Alpha
hopes to continue contributing to this literature as her academic career advances.
Name: Ruth Amanuel
Hon Bachelor of Arts- Major Political Science, Minor Economics and Spanish
Work: Volunteer Coordinator, United Way of Toronto
Interests: International Issues-Child Rights and Organizational Capacity Building
Perspectives: Ruth was drawn to this project as she is interested in understanding how current
challenges or opportunities facing Ethiopian youth in Canada hampers or fosters connection with
their homeland. She was intrigued to hear from first or second generation what contributes to their
cultural connection to Ethiopia
Name: Eman Jamie
Educational background: BA in Broadcast journalism at Ryerson University.
Work experience. Print and Visual Research Assistant at CTV
Interests: Eman is an active member at the Harari Heritage Centre where she volunteered her time
to raise awareness about the scarcity of water in the Harar region of Ethiopia. She has also been a
volunteer report for the local Ethiopian broadcast ADMAS for the past three years. She has also
volunteered at the Evergreen Public Relations Office where hse played a vital role in editing and
documenting data for the centre.
Perspectives: Eman is no stranger to the Ethiopian community and became interested in this peace
building project with Young Diplomats due to her continued interest in community building
Name: Eskender Mekonnen
Education Background: Anthropology, B.A. (McMaster), Int’l Relations and Development, Minor
in Economics, Hon. B.A., (U. of Windsor) and M.A. Candidate (U. of Windsor)—Topic: HIV/AIDS
policy in Ethiopia.
Work : Research Assistant to a Professor at U. of Windsor who is conducting major research on Int’l
Interests: Research in the Social Sciences— as he recalls his challenges passing through the
Canadian school system, Eskender strongly believes that he is able to assist current (immigrant)
secondary school youths by sharing his experiences. He is also interested in examining how
governments in developing countries respond to various public concerns/issues surrounding health.
Additionally, he has a passion for international politics, particularly African (Horn) politics.
Perspectives: Eskender has had many opportunities to engage in research projects both here and
internationally. In 2005 he gained a CIDA internship to conduct research in Ethiopia. He is also
always interested in learning more about the Ethiopian diaspora which is demonstrated in his
activeness in the Ethiopian community in Toronto. He feels that this particular project combines
both of his passions: working with youth, and conducting research. As one of the founding members
of the Young Diplomats (YD), he strongly believes in its mission and looks forward to the outcomes
of the research as being a positive way to create programs for youth in the Greater Toronto Area.
Name: Maraki Fikre Merid
Education background: B.Sc. (Biochemistry from McGill University) and M.Sc. (Epidemiology
from University of Toronto)
Work experience: Maraki is currently a senior health analyst at the Canadian Institute for Health
Information (CIHI). She is involved in special health care projects at the national level that look into
a variety of health care issues and policies in Canada. Her main expertise revolves around developing
the methodology behind research projects, analysis and report writing. She has extensive research
experience in previous employments where she developed and conducted various research projects
under the department of Public health sciences of the University of Toronto as well as through
volunteer and internship work here in Canada and elsewhere.
Interests: Her main interests can be summarized as being international health and Public Health
Sciences. Her research interests usually focus on HIV/AIDS but also revolve around developmental
issues and its impact on people from developing countries.
Perspectives: This project fits perfectly with Maraki’s interests outlined above. She has always
thought of the youth as being a key resource to tap into. She hopes to bring into this project some of
her expertise in research and analysis as well as her endless enthusiasm for this type of work.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY …………………………………………7
SAMPLING DESIGN :…………………………………………...8
QUESTIONNAIRE DESIGN :………………………………….9
RESPONDENT PROFILE ………………………………………11
LITERATURE REVIEW …………………………………………..13
CHALLENGES TO PEACEBUILDING AND DEVELOPMENT……14
Culture Related Issues:………………………………………………………………….16
1. YOUTH CONNECTEDNESS TO THE ETHIOPIAN COMMUNITY
Social and Familial Contacts……………………………………………………18
Ethnic Communities in Toronto…………………………………………………20
Participation in Ethiopian Community Groups and Events…………………….21
Implications for Peacebuilding and Development……………………………....25
2. YOUTH CONNECTEDNESS TO ETHIOPIA………………………….27
Assimilation into Canadian Society……………………………………………..27
Socialization into Ethiopian Culture…………………………………………….28
Knowledge of and Interest in Ethiopian Issues………………………………….29
Implications for Peacebuilding and Development………………………………30
3. CHALLENGES TO PEACEBUILDING AND DEVELOPMENT…….31
Why do you think you face these challenges?.......................................................33
4. OPPORTUNITIES FOR PEACEBUILDING AND
Young Diplomats (YD) is a dynamic youth-led organization, which strives to be a
resourceful and inspiring presence for the Ethiopian youth in the Greater Toronto Area. To
that end, YD undertook a participatory research project entitled Youth Perspectives:
Challenges to Peacebuilding and Development in the Ethiopian Community. The study assessed
the needs of Ethiopian youth and the prospects of engaging them in peacebuilding and
development efforts. Once the research is completed, YD intends to address one or more of
the identified needs through the implementation of innovative programs and activities
accessible to the youth in the Ethiopian community.
The following document provides an insight into the experiences of Ethiopian youth
between the ages of 14 to 29 living in the Greater Toronto Area. The paper attempts to
highlight challenges faced by the youth that hinder them from a successful integration into
the Canadian society at large. Additionally, it uncovers opportunities that exist for grassroots
level intervention to meet the group’s needs. With the understanding that the concepts of
peacebuilding and development are quite subjective and malleable to fit different ends, we
have defined these terms in the way that they are relevant to this study.
The following definition, taken from a Conflict Research Consortium at the University
of Colorado, suits the purpose and outcomes of this paper. The Consortium defines
peacebuilding as “the process of restoring normal relations between people…[and that
peacebuilding] requires the reconciliation of differences, apology and forgiveness of past
harm, and the establishment of a cooperative relationship between groups, replacing the
adversarial or competitive relationship that used to [and/or continues to] exist.”
This definition is relevant to the case of the Ethiopian community in Toronto to the
extent that it is composed of an entire generation that emigrated for the specific purpose of
escaping conflict (this is discussed further in the literature review below). Historically, state
and social actors have capitalized on the diverse ethnic composition of Ethiopia to fuel power
struggles, social movements and economic battles. Many who immigrated to Canada carried
the resentment they had towards each other with them; created by the building tensions
among different groups in Ethiopia. One part of this research looks into how much of this
has been internalized by Ethiopian youth. Most of the research looks at the effects of social
upheaval on broader social indicators of a healthy community. The term development, in
this paper, is used to mean the empowerment of the youth in Toronto—socially, politically
and economically, so that they can meaningfully contribute to the peacebuilding and
development initiatives in Ethiopia.
Accordingly, this paper’s intended audiences are Ethiopian parents, researchers,
teachers, activists, immigration workers, policy makers, as well as youth groups within and
outside the community:
Parents/Guardians—this paper is a valuable tool for them, as it enables
parents/guardians to understand challenges youth face; hence bridging the
intergenerational gap by creating dialogue.
Researchers—though this research is small in scope and preliminary in its depth, we
strongly believe that it is invaluable because of its novelty and ability to identify issues
that require further studies.
Teachers—this document assists them in understanding challenges that are experienced
uniquely by Ethiopian youth, improving interactions in classrooms.
Activists—both at the community as well as at government level may benefit from this
report if they so desire to lobby for proactive programs that deal with challenges
confronted by Ethiopian youth.
Immigrant workers—particularly those in the community would benefit greatly since
the report highlights youth specific needs, which require youth-friendly approaches.
Policy makers—where policy makers aim to implement meaningful legislation and social
programming, this document gives them a reference as to the genuine needs of youth in
Youth groups—this paper is a useful resource to obtain, as it articulates a) specific issues
that Ethiopian youth are facing; b) recommendations made by them in order to improve
relations between themselves and their parents; c) changes that would help youth achieve
their goals; and d) what inspires youth to dream. This is to place an emphasis on the fact
that an effective youth group would gain great insights concerning what approaches to
take with their group by understanding the challenges faced by the youth.
Though it is not necessary, your familiarity with Ethiopian history in the context of
the country’s regional and international roles would enhance your understanding of some of
the themes that arise in this research. To that end, we feel that Richard Pankhurst’s book
entitled The Ethiopians (2001) would provide a quick, but not exhaustive, reference to the
history of Ethiopia.
The questionnaires and focus groups developed for this research had specific research
questions in mind. The following are the research objectives used at the preliminary stages as
well as to inform the outputs and recommendations that complete this paper. The research
• Explore the extent to which different social, political, economic, and cultural issues that
Ethiopian youth face affect their ability or willingness to engage in peace building and
development in the local community and in Ethiopia
• Explore the extent to which Ethiopian youth (second generation Ethiopians) have
absorbed the social-political values of Canadian society and how this does or does not
affect their engagement in peace and development issues in Ethiopia
• Gauge the overall level of political and civic engagement of Ethiopian youth in contrast
to their parents
• Explore the extent to which the second generation Ethiopians (mainly youth) have
internalized the political values and affiliations of their parents
• Assess the extent to which ethnic politics poses a challenge to peacebuilding and
development in Ethiopia and within the Diaspora in Canada. Ask whether Ethio-
Canadian youth have internalized this form of politics and whether it has led to conflict
in the community.
• Discuss the strengths and limitations of engaging Ethio-Canadian youth in peace
The report begins with a brief literature review on the Ethiopian Diaspora in the
Greater Toronto Area. It continues with a discussion on youth connectedness to the
Ethiopian community in Toronto as well as to Ethiopia. Following this, the discussion is
furthered to include other challenges to peacebuilding and development both in Toronto
and Ethiopia, as articulated by the youth respondents. The final segment of the report
uncovers opportunities for, as well as recommendations to, peacebuilding and development.
Each of the four sections in the paper begin with Youth Perspectives, which are quotes taken
directly from the discussions in our focus groups. This is a unique opportunity to understand
the experiences of Ethiopian youth through their direct thoughts.
Young Diplomats (YD) is grateful and feels honoured for being offered the opportunity to
conduct this study. YD would like to express gratitude to the various institutions,
organizations, and individuals without whom this study would not have been possible.
First and foremost, special thanks to the staff of University for Peace-Toronto, particularly
Dr. Fayen d'Evie and Digafie Debalke (M.A.) for giving Young Diplomats the opportunity to
voice Ethiopian youth experiences in the Greater Toronto Area and for their unwavering
encouragement for YD’s establishment as an organization. In the same breath, we express our
deepest gratitude to the Gordon Foundation for its financial contributions, which made the
We would like to acknowledge and show our appreciation for our academic advisor
Dickson Eyoh, PhD. (Associate Professor of Political Science and African Studies, University
of Toronto), who provided us with academic guidance and constructive criticism.
We also would like to thank the following organizations for allowing us to use their facilities,
recruit participants and promote the research. We are truly thankful and this study would
not have been possible without their support:
Ethiopian Association in Toronto
St. Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Toronto
Ethiopian Canadian Muslim Community Association
Ethiopian Evangelical Church in Toronto
Ethiopian Students Association-York University (ESAY)
Harari Community Centre
New Hibret Cooperative
P2P Aid Organization
Toronto Habesha News
We are also thankful to YD members who helped with the logistics of the research: designing
and distributing flyers, helping with printing, advertising, as well as participating in the
Research Task Force – the team work you exhibited while conducting this study was
remarkable. YD would like to acknowledge Alpha Abebe, Ruth Amanuel, Maraki Fikre
Merid, Eman Jamie, and Eskender Mekonnen for their hard work. Also special thanks to
Helena Shimeles (Executive Director, Young Diplomats) and Redeat Maru who offered their
time and services without obligation.
To all the youth who participated in our questionnaire and focus group sessions, we hope
this study reflects your voices to the fullest. In unity we have an enormous potential and you
have re-ignited our passion and vision to create an organization that reflects you!
The principal objective of this participatory research project was to explore challenges
faced by the Ethiopian youth and how they impede upon their full participation in the
peacebuilding and development processes both locally and in Ethiopia.
The research utilized two forms of data gathering. The first method involved three
focus groups involving 19 participants in total. The second method was the completion of
questionnaires, with 157 youth participants; bringing the total pool of participants to 176.
The sampling process was not random however, participant were recruited from a range of
organizational and social networks.
The major sections of this paper are as follows:
1. Youth Connectedness to the Ethiopian Community in Toronto
2. Youth Connectedness to Ethiopia
3. Challenges to Peace Building and Development
4. Opportunities for Peace Building and Development.
The results of this study have shown that youth in the Ethiopian community in
Toronto are facing a number of challenges that have affected their ability to succeed
individually, as well as collectively as a community. Indicated in the literature and affirmed
by the research, the prominent difficulties faced by the community can be compounded into
the following categories: poverty; employment, education, discrimination, and culture-
Based on the needs articulated through this assessment, Young Diplomats has
formulated the following recommendations for organizations and policy-makers who aim to
promote peacebuilding and development through Ethiopian youth in Toronto.
• Clear support, funding and spaces to be provided to youth-led organizations in the
• Enhanced utilization of existing media sources, as well as support for the creation of new
and innovative forms of communication through media.
• Implementation of a comprehensive mentorship program that will encompass social;
academic and professional streams.
• Creation of accessible opportunities for youth to experience Ethiopia; such as work/study
abroad programs; international courses; and internships
157 self-administered questionnaires and 3 focus groups with 19 participants in total were
conducted between August-September 2006 among Ethiopian youths living in the GTA.
These youth were between the ages of 14 to 29. The total number of respondents was 176.
Respondents for the questionnaires were recruited using 8 different avenues to ensure
a diverse study population in terms of age groups, gender, ethnic and religious background.
Community events, faith-based organizations (mosques, churches), ethnic-based community
centres, colleges/universities as well as specific residential areas and word of mouth were
among the strategies used to administer the questionnaires. Snowball techniques were
employed to recruit further participants through the social networks of some respondents.
Focus group participants were recruited through the above-mentioned channels and
word of mouth. An attempt was made to ensure a good balance of the participants in terms
of gender, age, ethnic and religious backgrounds, and educational backgrounds, as well as
length of stay in Canada in these focus groups as well.
In order to minimize non-response, questionnaires were filled out under the
supervision of a member of the research group. Comfortable locations were set up in order to
ensure that respondent did not feel hastened and were able to get clarifications on some of
the questions. This also ensured that the respondents completed the questionnaires without
the help of any other person.
• Non-response rates were low as all the questionnaires completed were usable and no
respondents withdrew or refused to participate in the research study.
• The questionnaire on average lasted about an hour and respondents were
compensated $10 for their time and $15 dollars if they participated in the focus
groups, which lasted approximately 2 hours.
• A consent form was signed beforehand to ensure the respondents of the
confidentiality of their responses and provided the opportunity to clarify the
objective of the study. The respondents were also informed of their option to skip
questions they were not comfortable answering and that they could withdraw from
the questionnaire at any time. This same procedure was followed for the focus group
The questionnaire and focus group questions covered four broad areas:
• Youth connectedness to the Ethiopian community in Toronto
• Youth connectedness to Ethiopia
• Challenges to peacebuilding and development
• Opportunities for peacebuilding and development
The content of the questionnaire was designed based on the objectives of the study as well as
some of the themes that arose out of the first focus group, which was largely exploratory in
nature. The other two focus groups were opportunities to provide more in depth insight on
these four areas.
The objective of this research study is to provide more of a descriptive and
exploratory analysis of the role of Ethiopian youths in terms of peace building and
development. The analyses are descriptive in nature and will serve as a starting basis for
future in-depth analyses.
Since no prior research trying to identify issues related to this objective was available,
the use of questionnaires and focus groups as study designs were found to be very
appropriate, as they would help inform and enable more in-depth and focused studies in this
area in the future.
Nevertheless, research studies conducted using questionnaire design and focus groups
have certain inherent methodological limitations hence results should be interpreted with
caution. Results from this research may not be representative of all Ethiopian youths living in
Toronto because our sampling design was not random in nature. Most respondents were
recruited through community events or faith-based organizations, thus, our pool of
respondents will tend to be engaged in the Ethiopian community one way another. The fact
that we were able to access these youths to participate in the study already meant that they
were not completely disengaged from the community. This was a limitation because it meant
we could not hear from the group of youth that needed the most engagement. Nevertheless,
efforts were made to go to locations where we would access individuals with diverse religious,
ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.
A significant limitation to the research was time constraints and this had clear
implications for every facet of the study. The research task force took the enormous challenge
of completing a comprehensive study (recruiting, questionnaire building, analysis and report-
writing) in less than two months during which 157 youth filled in depth questionnaires and
19 youth participated in three separate focus groups. Even though the initial focus group was
used to identify relevant issues and themes to be developed in the questionnaires, there was
not enough time to test the validity and reliability of all the questions formulated. Ideally a
pre-test of the questionnaire would have been done in a small sample given the time.
Even so, our research task force was advantaged in that it consisted of Ethiopian
youth themselves who come from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds. The group
already had an insight into some of the issues that were relevant to this research study. Those
issues were further confirmed and developed through our initial focus group. The non-
response rate for the questionnaires was zero. This is reflective of the fact that the issues
raised in the questionnaires were relevant to the youth in the community and they were not
sensitive in nature. Most of the comments provided by the respondents were encouraging
and thanked the group for the opportunity to voice their opinions in the matters at hand.
The three focus groups were composed of 19 participants in total, with 7 males and
12 females. In order to ensure their comfort and confidentiality, focus group participants
were not asked to divulge many personal details or descriptors. Based on our modes of
recruitment however, we do know that the number of focus group participants that were
born in Canada versus overseas was split fairly equally, as was the number in high school
versus post-secondary institutions or workforce.
The following highlights the demographic and other characteristics of the 157
respondents of the questionnaires.
• About half of our 157 respondents were female (56.1%).
• 51.0% were between the ages of 14 to 19 while 25.5% were between 20 and 24 and the
rest 25 and over.
• 45.8% of our respondents were born in Canada. 17% of the remaining respondents not
born in Canada were recent immigrants who have not been in Canada longer than 5
years while 37.3% are more seasoned immigrants to Canada.
• About half of our respondents had completed different levels of high school education
with most of them (74.7%) having completed grade 9 to 12 of high school. The
remaining 47.6% of the respondents had also completed different years in University or
college with more than half having completed year 3 or 4 of university or college
education. [Note: this is not meant to be reflective of wider educational patterns in the
• Of the total sample, 39.6% stated being currently employed. Of these, more than half or
53.6% were employed in full-time jobs (Full-time jobs were defined as jobs that required
more than 30 hours per week).
• Most of our respondents live in the east side of the city (46.1%) while only 12.5% live
downtown and an equal proportion of about one fifth live in the West and north end of
The waves of Ethiopian migration can be essentially mapped onto the timeline of
tumultuous political events in Ethiopia beginning in the 1970s. “The first large out-
migration of Ethiopians started when a military government, the Derg, deposed Emperor
Haile-Selassie and the country adopted communism”. 2 This regime, led by Col. Mengistu
Haile Mariam, ruled Ethiopia from 1974-1991, 3 a period that coincides with the first wave
of Ethiopians coming into Canada. According to the 1996 Canadian Census, there are only
65 Ethiopians in Canada that arrived before 1976. However, about 44.4 percent of the
Ethiopians living in Canada by 1996 arrived between 1976 and 1985, many of which will
have Canadian-born children by now. 5
According to data from Canadian Immigration and Citizenship reports, 21,591
Ethiopian immigrants (excluding refugee claimants) arrived in Canada between
1974 and 1996, and the majority of these immigrants settled in Ontario. Among
those who settled in Ontario, most reside in the greater Toronto area, where,
according to the estimates by the Ethiopian Association in Toronto, the current
Ethiopian population numbers 30,000. 6
The years following the Derg government consisted of “political turmoil, civil war in
Eritrea, and border conflicts with Somalia”. The majority of first generation Ethiopian
immigrants in Toronto seem to have emigrated for the specific purpose of escaping political
turmoil, which indicates a particularity to this demographic of immigrants. The reasons for
leaving ones native country, the amount of preparation and pending resources, and the
expectations that one has of the host country are all significant factors in shaping ones
immigrant experience. There is sufficient literature that supports what our questionnaires
and focus groups discovered about the Ethiopian immigrant experience. As this research will
demonstrate, this unsettled migration experience significantly impacted all facets of the
community that has formed in Toronto.
The focus groups and questionnaires developed for this research sought to draw
connections between the migration experiences of first generation Ethiopian immigrants and
the challenges faced by the second-generation youth. The following section is an overview of
the literature surrounding the general challenges to peacebuilding and development in the
Ethiopian community in Toronto. The remainder of this paper will demonstrate how this
literature intersects with the views espoused by the youth in the community. It will also
expand on various opportunities for peacebuilding and development as articulated by
Challenges to Peacebuilding and Development
Upon settling in Canada, Ethiopians have found themselves facing a number of
challenges that have affected their ability to succeed individually, as well as collectively as a
community. There are five challenges that have shown to be the most taxing on the
community as shown by the literature and supported by this research: poverty; employment;
education; discrimination; and culture-related issues. These five challenges are
interconnected but each has specific implications for how the community has formed and
mobilized as a group.
In a recently published analysis of the 1996 Canadian Census, Ethiopians were
named, among three other groups, as “the most severely disadvantaged in our community”. 8
The data showed that Ethiopians suffered extremely high levels of poverty with 70% of the
children living in families whose income is below the “low income cut-off”. The causes of
this poverty were seen to reflect high levels of documented unemployment and “a
concentration of employment in lower skill jobs” even though they did not lack basic
education. 9 The proportion of university graduates were low 10 , however, this figure does not
seem to account for higher education attained outside of Canada.
It should be noted that the Ethiopian population documented to have lived in
Toronto during this census was only 7,005, a number considerably lower than the 30,000
that the Ethiopian Association in Toronto estimates to have in Toronto today and the
21,591 from the CIC reports. Among those community members who simply did not fill
out the census, the census also likely missed the large portion of Ethiopian immigrants who
were refugee claimants or not yet permanent residents. Nevertheless, its findings are not
erroneous, for it was still likely able to pick up on broad social trends in the community. Its
findings are also supported by other literature that shows similar financial constraints in the
Ethiopians have an overall unemployment rate of 24.4%, more than twice the
average in Toronto. 11 Further, “more than 80 percent of the Ethiopian women and 70
percent of Ethiopian men are in lower skill manual or non-manual occupations”. The
Ethiopian Association in Toronto conducted research regarding settlement service needs of
Ethiopian newcomers in Toronto. In their questionnaire, the respondents expressed great
difficulty in finding jobs within their first three years of arriving in Toronto. When asked to
list their top ten difficulties and concerns in order of importance during the first few months
of their arrival: finding a job; looking for a house to rent; and obtaining job search training
ranked as the top three, respectively. This difficulty finding employment demonstrates the
lack of resources available to Ethiopian migrants upon arrival and also reflects the conditions
that compelled them to leave Ethiopia in such a hasty and unorganized manner.
The general trend in immigrant education patterns is that young people in Toronto
are getting more education than their parents. However, about one-fifth of Ethiopian youth
are out of school and do not have a high school diploma. Those analyzing the census data
expressed particular concern for “the small number of groups with unusually large numbers
of young people who are not in school and not high school graduates…(including)
Ethiopians”. 15 The financial burdens faced by the community is also a stressor in this respect
and is likely to be yet another barrier to the attainment of postsecondary education.
Some challenges faced by the community are not easily solvable by upward economic
mobility, but are reflective of broader social ailments. A study found that about 65 percent of
their sample of Ethiopian immigrants experienced one or more forms of discrimination in
Canada because of their racial or ethnic background. Studies have been conducted on the
extent to which Ethiopians identify as being ‘black’ and how they assess their racial minority
status. 17 Part of the adjustment process that Ethiopians face upon migration has been found
to include adjustment to a racial minority status; something very different from their
experience in Ethiopia. The youth in this research shared the same sentiments about
growing up as ‘black’ youth in Toronto and it was cited among the most difficult challenges
faced by the youth.
Culture Related Issues:
There are many positive aspects of Ethiopian culture that the youth in this research
expressed pride for. There are, however, some culture-related issues that have shown to be
detrimental to the integration of the community into Canadian society. Though language
skills may be attributive to educational patterns in the community, language patterns can
also reflect the extent to which a community is connected to Canadian society and have
access to social and governmental services. According the Canadian Census, almost 95
percent of Torontonians who say that they are African or Black speak only English at
home. In contrast to this, less than 25 percent of Ethiopians speak only English at home.
Although the census data shows that many people who can speak English do not do so at
home, “the language used in the home reflects the individuals’ cultures and trajectories of
immigration of ethno-racial groups”. 21
Language barriers and other cultural differences often account for the extent to which
immigrants are willing to exploit social resources in their host country. However, despite the
immediacy of their need, “immigrants use fewer services compared to Canadian born and
immigrants that have come earlier… part of the service utilization problem may stem from a
mismatch between what service providers feel they are offering and what potential clients
perceive [to be] their needs and resources to meet those needs”. 22
This insight can also be extended to the disjunction that occurs with governmental
and community organizations and the youth population. There are often many organizations
that offer services directed to youth, however, there is often a mismatch between what these
organizations aim to provide to the youth and what the youth actually need. To take the
example further, the cultural differences that exist between older generations and youth can
create an additional barrier, with youth less willing to take advantage of these resources and
services. This is a theme that was echoed in our questionnaires and focus groups and has led
us to advocate for more youth-led organizations in our recommendation section.
1. Youth Connectedness to the Ethiopian Community in Toronto
“If you were to tell me that Ethiopian youth were doing something, I would not necessarily go to it
even as someone who is pro-unity, pro-community—because let’s just say there is a negative image
associated with Ethiopians.”
“I want recognition as an Ethiopian, African youth—recognition as an individual. I want the
people around me to know what I have done; that I am not part of the percentage.”
In our analysis of youth connectedness to the Ethiopian community, there is one
significant qualification that needs to be made. As discussed in our limitations section, most
of the youth that participated in this study were connected to the community to some degree
by virtue of our ability to access them. To this extent, we were not able to articulate reasons
why some Ethiopian youth are completely disconnected from the community. However,
there was still some variation that existed within our sample and interesting points of analysis
that demonstrate the levels and degree of youth engagement in the community. By looking
at the youth’s social and familial contacts; membership to ethnic communities; and levels of
participation in community groups and events, this section demonstrates the different ways
in which youth are connected to the Ethiopian community—from its most basic form to its
Social and Familial Contacts
A direct indication of connectedness to the community is whether or not the
respondents had their parents living in Toronto. The information gathered on the youth in
this questionnaire is not meant to reflect patterns of social and familial contacts in the
Ethiopian community. Rather, it is meant to provide a context with which one can
understand the responses given by the youth in this study.
82.1% of the youth in our questionnaires had their parents living in Toronto, and
almost all of them lived with their parents. Though most of the youth who were born in
Canada lived with their parents, only 53.8% of those youth who were classified as recent
immigrants (arriving in Canada within 5 years) had their parents living in Toronto. From
our focus groups we know that most youth who did not live with their parents were living
with extended family. 96% of the youth reported to have some extended family members in
Toronto however; the low numbers of youth who had over ten family members living in
Toronto (19.7%) is reflective of how recent the Ethiopian community to Canada.
Considering that our research was youth-focused, it was important for us to uncover
the social networks in the community that youth had access to and how these networks
affected (or did not affect) the engagement of youth in the community. Peer social networks,
rather than familial networks, proved to be the most deterministic factor in the engagement
of youth in community activities. That is, youth who had more Ethiopian friends were more
active in the Ethiopian community and attended more community events.
92.3% of our questionnaire respondents reported to have some Ethiopian friends.
Only 11.5% of these respondents said they had less than 5 Ethiopian friends. All other
respondents said they had more Ethiopian friends; with some giving numbers as high as 50.
The questionnaires tried to assess the level of influence of these peers by asking the youth:
“how many of your close friends are Ethiopian?” When given the options few; half; most; and
all, 1/3 of these youth said that most of their close friends were Ethiopian and 1/3 said that
few were. Of those youth who said that they did not have any Ethiopian friends, most said
that this was because there were no Ethiopian youth where they lived or in schools they
There is a dearth of literature or data available to quantify the concentration of
Ethiopians living in specific neighbourhoods in Toronto. Our questionnaires, however,
supported our common knowledge that there are certain identifiable neighbourhoods in
Toronto that house a concentrated number of Ethiopians. 42.5% of the youth respondents
said that they had Ethiopian neighbours and of this number, 23% said that half, most or all
of their neighbours were Ethiopian. This is a high number considering the relatively small
number of Ethiopians in proportion to the total population of Toronto. From our
questionnaires, those youth who lived downtown had the highest number of Ethiopian
Ethnic Communities in Toronto
To the extent that ethnic communities are still part of the composition of the
Ethiopian community in Toronto, this research was also interested in looking at how
connected youth were to their specific ethnic communities. Though umbrella organizations
exist for the Ethiopian community in Toronto, we know that there are also many smaller
organizations that serve to promote the specific cultural, linguistic, spiritual and economic
needs of members of their ethnic community.
When asked to rank how connected they were to their ethnic community on a scale
of 1-10 (1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest), about half of the total sample scored
their level of connectedness between 1-5, but of this group over half scored 1. The other half
of the sample scored their connectedness between 6-10. The questionnaires asked youth how
many of their Ethiopian friends were of the same ethnic group as them. 24.1% of those who
had Ethiopian friends said that they did not even know which ethnic groups their friends
belong to. More than ½ of this groups also said that they did not have a strong connection to
their ethnic community.
45.4% of those youth who had Ethiopian friends said that all, most or half of their
friends were of the same ethnic group. Though 88.5% of this group said that their parents
had strong connections with their ethnic community, ½ of them said that they had a strong
connection themselves. Finally, of those youth who said that they had Ethiopian friends but
that none were from the same ethnic group, 100% said that they did not have any connection
to their ethnic community. This data demonstrates that some youth are connected to the
Ethiopian community by virtue of their connectedness to their ethnic communities. Peer
groups seemed to be the best predictor of high levels of connectedness to ethnic communities
however, many of these contacts may have been created through the social networks of the
Participation in Ethiopian Community Groups and Events
Though personal and social networks are the most direct form of connection to the
Ethiopian community, the most relevant, for our purposes, is the level of participation in
Ethiopian community groups and events. By assessing the level of engagement of youth in
their community, we are able determine clear challenges and opportunities for peacebuilding
and development. Young Diplomats works with the understanding that any meaningful
engagement of the Diaspora with peacebuilding and development initiatives in Ethiopia can
only come about at a community level. A strong and cohesive community is one that
successfully engages their youth and includes them in all levels of decision-making and
68.2% of the youth in our questionnaires participated in some kind of community
group or event. A number of questions in the questionnaires were aimed at understanding
which youth participated (who); what groups and activities they participated in (what); the
level of engagement youth displayed through this participation (how); the reasons for their
participation (why); and the reasons for not participating (why not).
• Of those youth who reported to participate in any Ethiopian community groups or
- Recent immigrants (arrived to Canada within 5 years) tended to participate
more than youth born in Canada (80% vs. 65.7%)
- Those who declared having 1 or more Ethiopian friends had a higher rate of
participation than those without any (69.7% vs. 45.5%)
- There was no correlation between those youth who had their parents living
in Toronto and their level of participation. That is, those youth who had
their parents living in Toronto did not necessarily participate more in
community groups or events, or visa versa.
Rate of participation in Ethiopian Com m unity groups or events by years of stay in
20.00% 34.3% 34.5%
Born In Canada More than 5 years Less than 5 years
Years of stay in Canada
What Do Youth Participate In?
• Both the questionnaires and focus group results showed that the youth were
participating through faith-based groups/events, cultural activities, and recreational
• When we combined those who participated in church groups, mosques, faith-based
associations and cultural groups that engaged in religious activities –we found that
1/3 of all youth participation in Ethiopian community groups or events was through
faith based organizations.
• ¼ of youth participation was through events run by youth-led organizations.
How Are Youth Participating?
• The level of engagement of youth through their participation was assessed by asking
youth how they participated. 28.4% of the youth who reported to participate in any
Ethiopian community groups or events did so through organizing them. This is seen
to be the highest level of engagement.
• The other forms of engagement that youth reported included attending, donating,
participating, volunteering, teaching/mentoring, performing.
• However, 50.5% of this group participated solely through attendance. This is seen
to be the lowest level of engagement.
Type and level of engagement in community
ATTENDING DONATING ORGANIZING PARTICIPATING
PERFORMING TEACH / MENTOR VOLUNTEER
Why Are Youth Participating?
• After youth were asked detailed questions about their participation in community
groups and events, the questionnaires and focus groups asked them what they gained
out of their involvement to assess the level of self-fulfillment gained through these
activities. Some of the most typical responses to this question included:
Gaining a sense of pride in their culture
• The questionnaires and focus groups were also interested in whether or not youth
felt their engagement in the community had any external effects. When asked
whether or not the Ethiopian community gained anything out of their involvement:
- 57.6% said that the community did benefit from their involvement however,
39.4% said that they did not know whether or not the community benefited.
Why Aren’t Youth Participating?
• Those youth who reported that that they did not participate in any Ethiopian
community groups or events were asked to give reasons for this.
• Of the 31.8% that did not participate in any groups or events
- More than 1/3 said that it was because of a lack of time
- ¼ said that it was because they did not know about the events or groups
- About 1/5 said that it was because they did not have any interest
• The focus groups allowed us to get more detailed answers to this question and also
allowed those who did participate in the community to voice their frustrations and
- Some youth said that their parents discouraged them from participating in
the Ethiopian community. Negative attitudes expressed by older generations
makes youth feel that their attempts and initiatives in the community will
not make a difference. These sentiments were expressed by the parents
because the frustration of failed attempts at engaging in the community and
through their bad experiences.
- Many youth felt that the community did not have sufficient activities for the
youth to participate in. Where they existed, they were seen to lack the ability
to attract youth and in some cases were not youth friendly. Some said that
politically focused groups were the easiest way to deter youth participation.
This is supported by the questionnaire results that asked youth to
score their interest in Ethiopian politics on a scale of 1-10 (1 being
the lowest and 10 being the highest). 39% scored their interest
between 1-2 and 6% scored 9-10.
- Youth voiced concerns that the staff of most community organizations were
members of the older generation and had nothing in common with them.
Implications for Peacebuilding and Development
Through this analysis of youth connectedness to the Ethiopian community in
Toronto, we understand that peers have an overwhelming influence over how youth act and
what they choose to act in. Those youth who declared having 1 or more Ethiopian friends
had a higher participation rate than those without any (69.7% vs. 45.5%). Therefore,
organizations and individuals who aim to engage youth in peacebuilding and development
initiatives should capitalize on peer networks as an opportunity to promote events and
engage youth in different community groups.
The questionnaires also showed that other than faith-based groups and events, most
youth who participated did so through youth-led organizations. This was further supported
by the focus group discussions where youth said that they were discouraged by
organizations/events that were not youth friendly or run by youth. Youth are engaged by
people who can relate to their experiences as young people and the challenges they face as a
There was no clear indication, through the questionnaire analysis, that those youth
who lived in neighbourhoods with a high concentration of Ethiopians participated in more
events or groups. However, through this and further research into neighbourhood
compositions in Toronto, certain areas can be targeted to promote community programming
initiatives. Groups can take advantage of cultural resources (such as Ethiopian stores), word
of mouth, and opportunities for information dissemination (i.e. flyers, posters) in these
neighbourhoods when looking to engage the Ethiopian community building initiatives.
The fact that almost half (45.4%) of our sample reported that half, most or all of
their friends were of the same ethnic group as themselves, and that this corresponded with
their level of connectedness to that ethnic community may have various implications for
peacebuilding and development in the Ethiopian community. This might simply be
reflective of the comfort people, including youth, feel in interacting with others that share
the same language, culture, traditions, history and/or religion as they do. The salient
question is how do these segmented communities work together to build peace in the
Ethiopian community as a whole.
Though some questions were aimed at getting youth perspectives on this, at this
point, little is available in the literature to fully understand how these divisions have or have
not contributed to a strong Ethiopian Diaspora community. Further research is needed to
unearth this so as to inform our approach to building peace in the community. Which
channel is more effective in engaging youth in the Ethiopian community: ethnic community
groups or umbrella organizations? Is it possible to have both a strong ethnic identity as well
as an Ethiopian identity? Are ethnic identities and ethnic community groups necessarily
detrimental to the resolution of conflict in the community? These are all questions that
remain at the end of this research and ones that deserve further academic attention.
2. Youth Connectedness to Ethiopia
Do we have an obligation to help back home?
“Yes! That’s your identity. I am responsible for as many Ethiopians as I can help. We are
fortunate—if we are already on a career path we have to share our knowledge, knowledge-
The extension of Ethiopian ethnic communities and identities is one way in which
youth have displayed a connection to the land, cultures and traditions of Ethiopia. This
research was interested in discovering other modes of connection to Ethiopia and how these
could be used in peacebuilding and development initiatives aimed abroad. The
questionnaires and focus groups asked questions that examined the levels of assimilation into
Canadian society; socialization into Ethiopian culture; and knowledge and interest in
Ethiopian politics and social issues.
Assimilation into Canadian Society
One form of assimilation is the extent to which one personally identifies with the
host culture. Youth were asked to describe ways in which they felt Canadian culture was
different from Ethiopian culture. Many respondents took this opportunity to show pride for
what they saw as the rich history and traditions of Ethiopian culture. It was also clear that
many youth saw ‘culture’ as meaning something ethnic and foreign, as many responded with
comments like ‘Canada has no culture’. The question that followed however, asked the
youth which culture they identified with more, Canadian or Ethiopian. 27% of the sample
identified only as Canadian. These respondents were composed of both youth born in
Canada and born abroad (with Canadian-born numbers slightly higher).
The questionnaires also asked questions about Canadian civic engagement both to
assess the level of assimilation into Canadian society, as well as to compare youth’s interest in
civic and political issues of both Canada and Ethiopia. When asked to rate their interest in
Canadian politics on a scale of 1-10 (1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest), 35% of
the youth scored 1-2 where as 6% scored 9-10. The youth were also asked if they had ever
voted in a Canadian election – at any level (if they were of the voting age), and 27.9% said
that they did. This is an unusually high number considering national levels of youth voting
patterns. Once again, this is not meant to be reflective of general trends of voting among
Ethiopian youth in Toronto, and may simply be a product of the composition of
respondents. Considering their low level of interest in Canadian politics, it was surprising
that 73.9% of the respondents were able to name at least one Canadian political party.
Socialization into Ethiopian Culture
To the extent that many of our respondents were either Canadian-born or seasoned
immigrants, adoption of Ethiopian culture was likely to be a result of parental socialization.
The term ‘Ethiopian culture’, in this context, was used to understand how much youth
adopted Ethiopian languages; followed Ethiopian media; were interested in Ethiopian
politics; desired to work or study in Ethiopia; and demonstrated knowledge about Ethiopian
issues and events.
When asked which culture they identified with more (Canadian or Ethiopian), the
majority (65.8%) of the respondents said that they identified as Ethiopian. Though they
were asked to choose only one option, a small number of youth (6.3%) chose both options;
expressing that they identified with Ethiopian and Canadian culture equally. It is a fair
inference to make that had that option been available to all respondents, more youth would
have chosen both options. However, the constraint of having to choose one meant that youth
were forced to make a self-assessment and choose which culture they identified with more,
even if it was by a small margin.
88.2% of the respondents said that they spoke 1 or more Ethiopian languages but the
percentage for those who were born in Canada was lower. It was an oversight on our part not
to include an option separate from speak, that said understand. Some youth actually wrote in
the word “understand” to express the fact that though they could not speak any Ethiopian
languages, they could comprehend and understand them. Based on this, we feel that the
number of respondents who said that they could speak 1 or more Ethiopian languages may
have been lower had the understand option been available to them.
Knowledge of and Interest in Ethiopian Issues
Though language could be a barrier to accessing some forms of Ethiopian media,
there are many other ways in which youth are able to follow-up on Ethiopian issues that are
available to them in English. When asked whether or not they followed-up on Ethiopian
news, 53.6% of the youth said yes in their questionnaire responses. The percentage of youth
who followed up on Ethiopian news in the Canadian-born sample was less than this and the
percentage from those in the Ethiopian-born sample was higher than this. When asked to
describe what their main sources of information were for Ethiopian news, more than half of
the youth cited their parents as the primary source, followed by the Internet. As mentioned
earlier, when asked to rate their level of interest in Ethiopian politics, 39.1% of the youth
scored 1-2 and 6% scored 9-10 when asked to rate their level of interest on a scale of 1-10 (1
being the lowest and 10 being the highest).
Youth were asked whether or not they had ever travelled to Ethiopia (besides being
born there). 59.7% of the respondents said that they had travelled to Ethiopia at least once,
most of them within the last 10 years. Youth were also asked: if you had the opportunity to
study in Ethiopia—now or in the future—would you take it? More youth who had travelled to
Ethiopia responded yes to this question, demonstrating a higher desire to contribute to or
experience Ethiopia in more depth.
Though most of the youth who were raised or born in Canada felt that the Ethiopian
Diaspora had a responsibility to change conditions in Ethiopia, many demonstrated a low
level of connection to the issues by the dearth of their suggestions as to how they could help.
When asked to list ways in which they could help, many of these youth gave general
descriptions such as “assist in any way we can”, or “donate money to Ethiopia”. However,
our focus groups and questionnaires demonstrated that the recent immigrants (those who
came within 5 yrs) as well as those who had recently travelled to Ethiopia were able to give
concrete examples as to how to engage the community. This group was better able to
connect with the issues occurring in Ethiopia and were more engaged in discussions relating
to these issues. This group gave concrete courses of action such as investment in education,
the creation of more jobs and funding of social programs.
Implications for Peacebuilding and Development
The youth apathy to politics demonstrated through this research can pose a challenge
to peacebuilding and development initiatives. That youth have shown to be very
disinterested in Canadian politics suggests that they are less likely to mobilize as a group and
use political channels, such as parliamentary representatives, to lobby for the issues they care
about, including problems in Ethiopia.
Most youth who had any knowledge of Ethiopian politics attained it directly from
their parents. Our data showed that more than half of the youth had the same political views
as their parents, and the youth reported that many of these parents were highly interested or
engaged in Ethiopian politics. If these parents adopt a highly divisive and politicized attitude
towards Ethiopian issues, this can pose a challenge by either deterring youth from
involvement in peacebuilding initiatives or creating irreconcilable political identities in these
The Internet was cited as the second most utilized source of information for attaining
Ethiopian news. This presents an opportunity for groups to use this communicative channel
to engage youth in what are essentially distant issues. This also exposes youth to alternate and
nuanced views on Ethiopian issues and allows them to form their own informed opinions.
The fact that these youth lived in Canada but still identified strongly with their
Ethiopian identity is an opportunity to further engage them in community initiatives both
here and abroad. Further, regardless of where they were born, or whether or not they have
traveled to Ethiopia, Ethiopian youth demonstrated an overwhelming sense of responsibility
to help the conditions in Ethiopia. This high level of interest is a well-defined opportunity
for groups and organizations to use this demographic within the community in initiatives
The youth felt that Ethiopian politics was a disruptive influence on relations among
Ethiopians in the Diaspora. Youth apathy in Ethiopian politics then, can also be seen as an
opportunity to engage youth in other issues and forms of social organization that are less
Our sample showed that those who had lived in or traveled to Ethiopia had a higher
desire to work or study in Ethiopia if given the opportunity. This same group had concrete
and insightful ideas as to how they could make a difference in Ethiopian social, political and
economic spheres. First-hand experiences provide an awareness of the issues in Ethiopia and
intensify the desire to personally engage with these issues, despite the physical disconnect.
Providing youth with more opportunities and support for travel to Ethiopia is the most
effective and exciting opportunity to inform and engage the Diaspora in peacebuilding
initiatives in Ethiopia.
3. Challenges to Peacebuilding and Development
“People in our community are often competitive. In my parents’ experience, they found that they
tried to help other people and they shunned them. That’s been their personal experiences. The sense
that I am not going to share my knowledge with you; where you see Indians and Chinese sticking
together. Even though it seems like they are sticking to themselves—that is what their strength is,
their cohesion; sticking together and helping each other out.”
Part of the analysis of youth connectedness to the Ethiopian community in Toronto
and to Ethiopia unearthed some of the challenges to peacebuilding and development.
However, many of these challenges were framed within these contexts. To the extent that
individual Ethiopians are what make up the Ethiopian community, the personal challenges
faced by the youth should still be understood as challenges to the community. Effectively
addressing these individual challenges at a community level is the highest form of
peacebuilding and development as it creates a mechanism of sustainability and capacity
building for the community at large.
Before youth were asked to articulate what they saw as community challenges, they
were asked to describe some of the biggest problems and challenges they faced in their lives
living in Toronto. It is important to note that they were not asked to describe their
challenges as Ethiopian, or even as youth, but simply the challenges they faced day-to-day.
15.3% of the respondents said that they did not face any problems or challenges at all.
26.2% of the Canadian-born sample said that they did not have any problems, compared to
only 6.6% of those born outside of Canada who had the same response. The following were
the main responses that were given by those who said they faced any challenges living in
Toronto. Another important note here is that this question was posed as an open-ended
question; the youth were not given pre-selected options.
Challenges faced by youths in Toronto
BEING VISIBLE MINORITY / BLACK CRIME/ VIOLENCE
CULTURAL DIFFERENCE /IDENTITY CRISIS DON'T FACE PROBLEMS
FINDING A JOB / MONEY PROBLEMS OTHER
PEER PRESURE SCHOOL
Why do you think you face these challenges?
Our focus groups allowed for us to explore how these youth viewed their challenges
and why they felt they faced them. Coming to Canada as youth was seen to have its own
cultural shock, especially for those youth who came separated from their parents. Close knit
family ties are broken and these youth have to fend for themselves in a foreign land. They
face a lot of stress trying to financially support themselves, while trying to meet the
expectation of being a model of success for the remaining relatives back home. Some who
experience these harsh realities are embarrassed to tell the type of work they do to their
family back home in Ethiopia.
The youth who cited cultural differences as a challenge described things such as
culture shock; racial-identity crisis; and not fitting into Canadian society as contributing to
this difference. Youth who migrated to Canada had a hard time internalizing ready-made
labels such as ‘African’, ‘black’ or ‘minority, which they were confronted with for the first
time. Some felt that they were lumped into a group that did not recognize their history or
uniqueness as Ethiopians. Other youth felt constraints when trying to ‘fit in’ to what they
saw as black culture by purchasing black cultural commodities or satisfying performative
expectations. Even if youth did not identify with their minority status, there was a feeling
that simply being black posed a challenge to the integration of the community into Canadian
society. Other new immigrant communities may face less challenges because they are not
visibly a minority and may experience more ease in fitting in.
Though the youth were able to articulate the challenges they faced individually, they
faced more difficulty in placing these challenges into a community context. 45% of the
youth said that they did not feel or did not know if other Ethiopian youth living in Toronto
faced the same challenges as they did. However, when the youth were asked to name the
major problems faced by Ethiopians in Toronto, they stated the same challenges as they
faced individually. Even when they cited similar challenges, youth were unable or unwilling
to accredit the challenges they faced individually, to their status as Ethiopian immigrants in
Toronto. This is further supported by the fact that, when asked, most youth respondents did
not feel they needed the help of the Ethiopian community in solving their problems. It is
also interesting to note the same response was given when asked if the youth felt they needed
the help of the Canadian government.
Negative aspects of Ethiopian com m unity in Toronto
ETHNIC DIVIDE 2.0%
NOT ORGANIZED 3.0%
TOO MUCH GOSSIP / JUDGEMENT
NO INVOLVEMENT AND OR SUPPORT / ASSISTANCE
TO THOSE WHO NEED IT.
LACK OF FUNDING FOR ETHIOPIAN PROGRAMS
NEVER ON TIME
NOT WILLING TO ADAPT TO CHANGE 24.8%
4. Opportunities for Peacebuilding and Development
“I am going to be positive and say that the Ethiopian community has potential but it is going to
take a lot of time, effort, and dedication from individuals and groups. Your background does not
matter—if you were from back home or from here. We all have to come together to unite to work
on the issues that we have, or recognize that we have these issues.”
“You have to realize that Ethiopians came recently—twenty to twenty five years ago. They have
been working hard. The first community that came as our founding board—the cushion for our
generation to build that community.”
Youth respondents were able to clearly articulate opportunities for peacebuilding and
development because they saw a stark need for such initiatives in the community. Youth felt
that the Ethiopian community lacked elements that made other immigrant communities
successful such as group cohesion; strength in numbers; strong businesses; and high levels of
education. The top three immigrant communities that were identified as ‘successful
immigrant groups’ by the youth were the Chinese, Indian, and Jewish communities,
Though the youth were conscious that the Ethiopian community could not be
evaluated based on the successes of these larger and more established immigrant
communities, they still felt a need to build capacity in these areas where they lagged behind.
When asked to list opportunities to better the Ethiopian community, more than half of the
youth responded—promoting unity, better education, and the creation of more jobs, which
were the same elements they valued in successful immigrant communities.
Youth also saw opportunities to build peace in the community by implementing
programs that prevent youth from engaging in deviant and violent activities. For instance, a
soccer player emphasized that besides school and work, practices took up most of his time;
hence he did not have time for such “destructive activities”. Some of the youth cited crime
and violence as a challenge that directly affected them and many youth felt that there was a
need for more youth-focused programs to address this challenge. Those youth who admitted
to engaging in deviant/criminal activity, or knew other youth who did, said that they did
because of a lack of direction. They felt that they needed other people, preferably peers, who
could provide positive representations of themselves and act as role models to them. It was
encouraging to see that even youth who were not contributing to peace in the community
could provide articulate insight as to why this was the case.
This paper assessed youth perspectives to challenges to peacebuilding and
development in the Ethiopian community. This was done by analyzing the level of
connectedness youth demonstrated to the Ethiopian community in Toronto. The research
found that peer networks were the most influential connection to the community and could
be used to further engage youth in community groups and events. It also found that some
youth were identifying strongly with their specific ethnic communities in Toronto but it was
unclear, from this research, what the implications of this was to peacebuilding and
development in the community. Youth engaged highly through faith-based groups in the
Ethiopian community but also participated through youth-led organizations and events.
The level of connection youth had to Ethiopia was important to assess in order to
gauge how they could be used in peacebuilding and development initiatives aimed abroad.
Both Canadian-born and immigrant youth were fairly integrated and/or assimilated into
Canadian society however, most still identified more with their Ethiopian identity. Interest
in Ethiopian issues was fairly high, except with regards to Ethiopian politics. The knowledge
of relevant issues in Ethiopia demonstrated by the youth however, varied depending on
whether or not they were born in or had been to Ethiopia.
Youth were able to identify the challenges that needed to be addressed in Ethiopia
but were also asked to speak of their own personal challenges. Many of the challenges
expressed by the youth mirrored the literature and data available on the Ethiopian
community in Toronto (please see literature review) but the youth saw these more as
individual rather than community challenges. When asked to articulate the challenges faced
by other Ethiopians living in Toronto, most examples were similar to those given in response
to their individual challenges.
Finally, youth were able to construct and articulate opportunities for peacebuilding
and development in the Ethiopian community in light of the challenges the community
already faced. They were able to describe what made an immigrant community ‘successful’,
even giving specific examples, but unanimously felt that the Ethiopian community in
Toronto was not one of those examples. Youth felt that there were opportunities for
peacebuilding and development in the community through programs that promoted unity,
education and aided in employment. Youth also felt that they needed programs that
provided positive role models for youth in order to keep them away from deviant and
Young Diplomats took on this research initiative in part because we felt that the
challenges faced by Ethiopian youth in Toronto were not being adequately addressed.
Though there are various examples of successful youth initiatives in the Ethiopian
community, these groups are under-supported, under-funded and under-staffed. It is
encouraging to note that 17.5% of the youth respondents who said that they participated in
Ethiopian community events, did so through organizing –a demonstration of the leadership
potential within our community.
The recommendations that follow this report are aimed at providing channels for
these youth to display and strengthen these leadership skills in order to secure a sustainable
method of building peace in the community. All initiatives aimed at empowering youth are
beneficial in and of themselves, but they are also inherently sustainable, as they build the
capacity of the next adult generation to address future challenges in their community. This
list of recommendations presented by Young Diplomats is not meant to be exhaustive or
representative of all needed services for youth in the Ethiopian community. Rather, they are
initiatives that are pragmatic, measurable, and are of immediate need in the community as
articulated by the youth in our report.
The youth in this report have expressed frustration with the lack of youth-friendly
organizations and events available to them in Toronto. Therefore, we recommend clear
support, funding and spaces to be provided to youth-led organizations in the Ethiopian
community in order to facilitate these activities. This will address several of the issues
articulated in this report including support for social networks; promoting unity; and
promoting awareness of other social issues and initiatives.
The youth identified the Internet as one of their primary sources of information about issues
related to Ethiopia. They also were aware of existing community-based media channels but
felt they needed to be more youth-oriented. In light of this, we recommend the enhanced
utilization of existing media sources, as well as support for the creation of new and
innovative forms of communication through media.
Through questionnaires and focus groups, youth have repeatedly stated that they lacked
positive role models in all aspects of their life. As a result, the youth resorted to non-
constructive activities; ill-informed about educational opportunities; had difficulty
identifying resources in the community; and suffered economic constraints. Therefore we
recommend the implementation of a comprehensive mentorship program that would
encompass social; academic and professional streams.
Youth in our study unanimously felt a sense of responsibility to contribute to the betterment
of Ethiopia; but were largely unaware of ways in which to do this. Our analysis showed that
those youth who had personal experiences in Ethiopia were more informed, articulate and
passionate about issues in Ethiopia.
Creating a stronger cultural link between the Diaspora and Ethiopia can encourage youth to
be informed and participate in peacebuilding and development efforts in Ethiopia.
Therefore, we recommend the creation of accessible opportunities (i.e. work/study abroad
programs; international courses; internships) where youth have the chance to both contribute
their skills to Ethiopia, as well as learn new skills and insights.
Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA.
Noh, Samuel; et al. (2004)
What Happened in History: Timeline Ethiopia. [Online]
Ornstein (2000), pg. 22
Ibid, pg. 26
Noh, Samuel; et al. (2004)
What Happened in History: Timeline Ethiopia. [Online]
Ornstein (2000), pg. 21
Ornstein (2000), pg. 53
Ibid, pg. 79
Beyene, Wosen Y. (2000), pg. IV
Ornstein (2000), pg. 53
Ibid, pg. 60
Noh, Samuel; et al. (2004)
Cheboud (2001), Kibour (2001)
Kibour (2001), pg 48
Ornstein (2000), pg. 33
Ibid, pg. 28
Ibid, pg. 32
Beyene, Wosen Y. (2000), pg. I
Beyene, Wosen Y. (2000) Settlement Service Needs for Ethiopian Newcomers in Toronto.
Citizen and Immigration Canada, Ethiopian Association in Toronto.
Cheboud, Elias A. (2001) A Heuristic Study on Successful Ethiopian Refugees in British
Columbia: Identity and the Role of Community. Dissertation Abstracts International, A:
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